Brighton Year-Round 2020
Karen Daley and Louis Ng gave a Piano and Soprano Recital in that order. Ng played Beethoven’s D major Op 10/3 Sonata, and Daley sang to his accompaniment Schubert, Huang, Dvořák, Lloyd Webber and Johann Strauss II.
I’ve not previously heard Louis Ng but he’s both a very promising soloist and accompanist. This very unusual recital features both artists profiling their gifts. So it’s not just a solo spot, but a whole Sonata we hear from Ng first.
His way with Beethoven’s witty but substantial early (1798) Piano Sonata No.7 in D Major, Op.10 No.3 is crisp lyricism.
It blasts off with a vertiginous presto in D major, that bright rather French key full of brio élan and button-holing. It signifies – certainly to someone like Beethoven – confidence. This sonata is the most experimental so far, angular, edgy too.
Full of harmonic twists the movement arrives with a boisterous wit in a zooming scale, but it’s elegant too in its mirror and stalking scale-theme repeats: it was dedicated to Countess Anne Margarete von Browne.
Despite being set in earthy 6/8 the Largo e mesto that follows intimates tragedy with a ticking descending figure the antipode to that rising one in the opening movement. Ng moves from crispness to a self-communing that’s deeply affecting. The profundity here – D minor is the high-tragic key calls forth no less and received it, but in a clear-eyed objective way.
The ¾ Menuetto: Allegro that follows is a curious piece in D, edging to scherzo, following into G major for the Allegro as if feeling a scherzo in another way with minor edges and trills to emphasize a certain flourishing rhetoric. It’s pacey, powerful and full-toned here.
Returning to the D major home key, Rondo: Allegro, we’re in more traditional territory, with a nippy three-note theme with emphasis on the two later tied notes like a conversation. But Beethoven slips sideways and doesn’t allow the final to comfort us back into conventional Rondo territory. Not quite anyway. What a work, and Ng’s truly up to this. It’ll be fascinating to hear his Beethoven in future years.
Karen Daley is a strong lyric soprano, with a ringing top range and a penetration that blooms in this acoustic and would find others congenial. Daley started with Schubert – Der Blumenbrief, D.622 from around 1821 when Schubert was 24. It’s a bloom in itself, lighter more classical than we’re used to. It’s a bright neat serenade.
Tzu Huang’s ‘Three Wishes of the Rose’ continues the bloom theme but what a difference. A Chinese song delicately edged and harmonized, but with is refrain sounding close to british, American and German operetta. Daley’s clearly showing her profile with this range of song, but it’d be wonderful if she could include more of these songs in her repertoire.
Dvořák’s ‘Als die alte Mutter sang’ (‘Songs My Mother Taught Me’) hardly needs introduction but it does need pure intonation, an Daley again obliged in this deceptively simple delight.
It’s good to get musicals we don’t know quite so well, and though Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Think of Me’ from The Phantom Of The Opera is quite well-known this is the kind of lyric soprano, edging to musicals, where Daley seems to feel most at home. She made it artsong too.
On the wilder side of operetta, Johann Strauss II’s –‘Mein Herr Marquis” from Die Fledermaus is a skittish bid for independence within accepted norms, the late 19th century could just about absorb. It gifted Daley some a Viennese creamy top-notes. And in all this Ng accompanied with warm precision, pushing forward just to keep a fullness of texture, and back t allow Daley’s voice to do what it does best: to flourish at the (on this evidence) light lyric soprano repertoire. It’s a rich seam underperformed and might just have found its champion. A deeply rewarding duo.